Monday, May 14, 2012

The Johnny Depp / Tim Burton collaboration

I don't think anybody could have remained oblivious to the new Dark Shadows movie coming out:

Yet another Johnny Depp / Tim Burton collaboration, it seems those two have been in the movie business forever ! Edward Scissorhands, Sleeph Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, now this !

So this begs the question: why? What do I mean "why"? Well, do the two just really like working together, or have they both determined that their partnership was mutually beneficial in terms of the quality of the movies created together?

I pulled IMDB data for Johnny Depp and Tim Burton separately focusing only on Johnny Depp as an actor and Tim Burton as a director (did you know he was in the list of actors for M.I.B. 3 ???), and labelled the movies either as "Common movies, "Johnny Depp only" or "Tim Burton only".

Collaboration VS Solo

Here is a graph summarizing for each of the three categories the IMDB ranking of the movies:

The above plot in question is called a boxplot and is a quick way to compare sets of data. The dark bold horizontal line is the median, and the gray rectangles represent the 25%-50% interquantile range, meaning that only 25% of movies will have rating greater than the top of the rectangle, and only 25%
will have a value less than the bottom of the rectangle. The dashed lines (called "whiskers") give an idea of the spread of the most extreme values.

For instance, we see that the median value for "Common movies" is around 7.5, and the data is rather concentrated (no movie had a rating better than 8, and none worse than 6.5).

Now comparing to the movies Johnny and Tim did solo, we see that while their joint work did not produce their best-rated movies (8.2 with Platoon for Johnny, and 8.4 with Vincent for Tim), it definitely limited risks with no movies worse than 6.5, whereas at least 25% of the movies Johnny or Tim did by themselves got worse than 6.5.

What about gross revenue?

Another comment about the boxplot: the round circles represent 'outliers' in the sense that they are values way beyond the spread observed in the data.

For "Common Movies", the outlier is Alice in Wonderland which generated just over a billion dollars, despite being, ironically, their worst-rated movie together at 6.5!

For Johnny Depp, the data is quite interesting: all his solo movies seem to have generated less than 150 million dollars, except four which made 4 to 7 times that amount. No surprises here, all four are Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm sure Johnny Depp bank account is looking forward to the fifth installment!

As for Tim Burton, the movies he did with and without Johnny Depp have very similar profiles.

Ratings and box office revenue can be combined in a scatterplot:

On a side note, it is interesting to see from the above graph the relationship between IMDB rating and revenue for the Johnny-Tim collaboration (blue dots): the greater the revenue, the lower the rating!

Evolution over time

The natural follow-up question is how this collaboration fits with the historical trends for both Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.

In terms of ratings, the collaboration had a significant impact on movie quality for Johnny Depp at the beginning of his career but very little in recent years (which was what the earlier boxplots hinted at earlier), whereas the impact was essentially insignificant for Tim Burton (but it's interesting to notice that 5 of Tim Burton's last six were with Johnny Depp).

From a revenue perspective, the collaborative Alice in Wonderland generated as much as the Pirate of the Caribbean series for Johnny, whereas that same movie and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were Tim Burton's two biggest revenue-generating movies.

Closing conclusions

If  were to summarize the previous findings in one sentence, it would be that Johnny Depp is currently repaying Tim Burton for having made him known in Hollywood early on his career with great-rated movies (Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood) by starring in two huge hits (dollar-wise).

All this being said, it will be very interesting to see how well Dark Shadows performs and how it fits in with the current trends...

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